Internet Allows Priests in Flemington to Continue Catechizing to World

08-16-2020Weekly ReflectionKaren Corpora

Many people are familiar with the EWTN show, “Web of Faith 2.0” which Father Kenneth D. Brighenti and Father John Trigilio Jr., have been cohosting for the past 10 years. Many more individuals, especially parishioners of St. Magdalen de Pazzi Parish, were introduced to a new version of the show during the pandemic.

Once the coronavirus spread, Father Brighenti, pastor of St. Magdalen, and Father Trigilio, Jr., who had been teaching at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., until the coronavirus caused a lockdown and he moved into the Hunterdon County parish, decided to do a quarantined version of their show. Posted on the parish’s website and YouTube, “Web of Faith 2.1½” is filmed in the parish rectory.

In need of someone to film and edit their show, the two priests quickly cajoled Father Matthew J. Marinelli, parochial vicar at the parish, to be the film crew and editor. “If we are going to be locked down, we need to do something catechetical,” Father Brighenti told Father Trigilio. Their EWTN show features questions about the faith that are sent in by viewers and answered by the two priests. They used the same format for much of their new version of the show.

The trio has filmed and edited more than 55 episodes of their half hour show, which started when the lockdown began. “We have pretty much covered the whole Catechism,” Father Brighenti noted. “What’s nice about it is if you watch all the episodes of these questions and answers, you’ve got a pretty good grounding in the Catholic faith.” On one of the episodes, a viewer commented, “Father, I’m 70 years old. I learned more in two months than I have in all my years in the Catholic faith.”

The priests have enjoyed making their shows but acknowledge they would not exist without people sending in questions. The parish secretary, receives e-mails with questions, then forwards them to Father Brighenti to be used on an episode. “It has been fun,” she said. “We have been getting questions from people around the U.S. that are not even part of our parish. They are fans of the show following along on our website or YouTube.”

While most episodes of “Web of Faith” are based on questions and answers, some episodes are a sort of show and tell, dedicated to topics such as altar vessels, priest’s vestments and spiritual reading materials that were mentioned on former episodes. The episodes also have featured guests. Father James G. Tucker, parochial vicar, St. Mary Parish, Alpha, shared his puppet ministry; Christian Charity Sister Faustina Nguyen of the parish’s Social Ministry, did a session on flower arrangements, and the parish organist taught the background on liturgical music.

Father Brighenti and Father Trigilio have amassed their vast knowledge of the Church as co-authors of a series of books for Wiley Publishing, Inc., including “Catholicism for Dummies” (2003, updated in 2017); “Women in the Bible for Dummies” (2005); “The Catholic Answer Book: the 300 Most Frequently Asked Questions” (2007); and “Saints for Dummies” (2010).

When it comes to sharing that knowledge in shows for EWTN, they try to make it an enjoyable experience for the audience. “Father John is very entertaining,” Father Brighenti noted. “He’s like Johnny Carson, and I’m sort of like the Ed McMahon of ‘The Tonight Show.’ We have a good rapport and people enjoy that. We are teaching the faith but in an entertaining way.” “Working on ‘Web of Faith’ during COVID-19,” Father Trigilio said, “has helped me spiritually by moving the focus away from me and it helped me to focus outward to helping others.”

When answering a viewer’s question, “How do the three of you keep from driving each other nuts?” Father Trigilio responded, “By respecting each other’s personal space, making sure we have some quiet private time alone as well as concelebrating Mass, sharing meals, and doing ‘Web of Faith’ together. Balance is the key and gratitude for being with patient colleagues.”

“I appreciate the different personalities we possess that complement each other,” Father Trigilio added. “Father Ken is very organized and a great leader/shepherd/pastor and a holy priest. Father Matt is our tech guy. He is low key, very prayerful and spiritual. The danger of personality conflicts is overcome by true priestly fraternity. We love being priests.”

Father Marinelli quickly adapted to his role as camera man and editor of this series. He confessed that his job was much easier than that of Father Brighenti and Father Trigilio. “They would answer questions sent in off the top of their head. That was impressive. I enjoyed listening to their answers,” he said.

As for his role as camera operator and editor, Father Marinelli said, “I learned a lot. It was a little time-consuming at first since I had no idea what I was doing, but I figured it out pretty quickly.” He uses Movavi Video Editor, which is consumer-friendly editing software, and recorded the audio with Audacity. “Then I just put the audio and video together and that was pretty much it,” he said.

During the lockdown, the trio taped five days a week, Monday through Friday. Going forward, they will tape a single, one-hour show each week. After they move the show to EWTN, which will air once a week, they will phase out the parish episode. Their new series, which was set to begin taping in March, did not occur because of the lockdown. The hope is that they will begin again sometime over the summer.

Father Brighenti said ‘Web of Faith 2.1½,’ the home version of his and Father Trigilio’s show will become “Web of Faith 3.0” when they return to EWTN and it moves from television to the EWTN website. Reflecting on “Web of Faith,” he added, “Doing this show has kept us creative and we are able to reach people virtually since we were unable to be with them physically.”